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Thai pro-government ‘red shirt’ protesters attend a rally in Bangkok on Sunday
Thai pro-government ‘red shirt’ protesters attend a rally in Bangkok on Sunday. AFP

Trade strong despite unrest

Economic ties between Cambodia and Thailand will continue their upward trend despite the prospect of more leadership changes in Bangkok, officials from both countries said yesterday.

Jiranun Wongmongkol, minister counselor for the Thai Embassy in Cambodia, said that she was confident bilateral trade would keep up around its current pace even if there were a change of power in Thailand.

“Business relations among business partners of the two nations are still good,” she said.

Wongmongkol’s statement comes as Thailand’s political crisis reaches fever pitch, with anti-government protesters calling for the installation of an unelected prime minister after Yingluck Shinawatra was ordered to stand down as premier by the Thai Constitutional Court for abuses of power last week.

Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was also previously ousted as Thailand’s leader, are both known to have enjoyed good relations with Cambodia through close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Seemingly unaffected by the ongoing political turmoil in Thailand, bilateral trade between the nieghbouring countries reached $852 million during the first quarter this year, up 18 per cent from the same period last year.

“The relationship between Cambodia and Thailand will remain the same, nothing will change even if there is a change of Thai government,” Wongmongkol said.

There is, however, an emerging shift being brought on by Thailand’s turmoil.

Wongmongkol said that some Thai businesses were looking to relocate over the border, citing garment factories and rice millers that had recently opened in Koh Kong and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

Ly Utny, president of Banteay Meanchey Chamber of Commerce and who acts as the first point of contact for business delegates from Thailand, said he had welcomed 10 potential investors since January. During their visits, the delegates had all expressed frustration over the difficulty of doing business in their home country due to the unrest.

“In previous years, Thai businesses seemed less interested to come to our country, but this year many have come to explore business opportunities,” Utny said.

While trade and investment are weathering the political storm, Thai visitor numbers to Cambodia have taken a slight dip recently.

After three years of increasing arrivals from Thailand – which observers have attributed in part to greater diplomatic relations with Cambodia after Yingluck took power in 2011 – numbers declined by 13 per cent during the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same time last year.

While Thailand’s unrest has had a slight impact on the number of Thai arrivals here, the number of foreign tourists entering via Thailand has been unaffected Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said yesterday.

“When people face political uncertainty in their country, they stay at home and reduce the amount of time they travel,” he said.

Khon said he didn’t expect any future changes to the shape of the Thai government would have any impact on arrivals to Cambodia.

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